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Archive for March, 2014

How much sugar does your family eat?

The nation’s reliance on fast foods and prepackaged items loaded with added sugar causes tooth decay, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, says Dr. Robert Lustig, a childhood obesity expert at UC San Francisco.

One great way to overcome this problem is to teach America’s children how to cook healthy meals from scratch. In addition, Lustig wants to build public pressure on the food industry and government leaders to cut down on unhealthy food additives to improve everyone’s well-being.

He has teamed up with the American Heart Association and Walnut Creek chef Cindy Gershen, who also teaches at Mt. Diablo High in Concord, to get the message out to parents and the general public that major changes are needed in Americans’ diets. The World Health Organization and American Heart Association agree that added sugar should only make up 5 percent of a person’s total calories each day, which amounts to 4 teaspoons of added sugar for kids, 6 teaspoons for women or 9 teaspoons for men, he said.

“In America today, we’re at 17 percent,” Lustig said, as he watched Gershen’s students cooking healthy meals with salmon, pork loin, tofu and chicken earlier this week during a Bay Bridge Cook with Heart Challenge alongside students from Galileo High in San Francisco. “So, this is a reduction by two-thirds.”

Cutting back so drastically will be a huge challenge in this country, where 77 percent of all foods sold in grocery stores include added sugar, Lustig said. Even more alarming, he said, is the amount of sugar added to foods given to schoolchildren through breakfast and lunch programs.

About one-quarter of American kids eat school breakfasts, he said. For some, a typical breakfast could include a bowl of sugary cereal and a glass of orange juice — totaling 11 teaspoons of sugar — or 7 teaspoons more than the recommended amount for the entire day.

The reason Americans are consuming too much sugar is simple, Lustig says.

“The food industry makes money by selling crappy food,” he said. “The federal government lets them, but then the federal government has to pay for the downstream negative effects of that.”

For example, the government spends $245 billion a year on diabetes, he said. And it spends $200 billion a year fighting dementia, which he said has been associated with high-sugar diets.

Instead, Lustig says the government could make money by fixing the food so that it wouldn’t have to pay later for health problems caused by sugar. The reason this isn’t happening, Lustig alleges, is that 338 of 535 members of Congress take money from the food industry.

Until there is enough public outcry, Lustig says, nothing will change, even though the economic arguments alone justify the reductions he recommends. But more importantly, he says, children and their communities would benefit from healthier diets.

“When kids eat real food, they’re thinner, smarter and their behavior problems are better,” he said. “One-third of Americans don’t know how to cook. We can’t fix this until they do.”

Lustig and Gershen advocate bringing back home economics programs to high schools so that students can learn the nutritional guidelines and skills necessary to be healthier. Gershen’s students said they have changed their own diets and the foods eaten in their homes as a result of the education and hands-on cooking experiences they have received.

“It’s important to know what to put in your body,” said Maria Aguirre, 17, a junior at Mt. Diablo High. “At home, when you see what your mom makes, you say, ‘Mom, how much did you put in it?’ We have sugar at school. But, we also use honey.”

After the San Francisco competition ended, 16-year-old Shelby Cooper snacked on a plate of peas.

“It’s a healthier snack than a bag of chips and I’m more full,” she said. “I feel guilty if I eat chips.”

Carissa Urbina, a 17-year-old junior at Mt. Diablo High, said she enjoyed the salmon and vegetables they cooked.

“It gives me a lot of energy throughout my day as I’ve been eating this food,” she said. “And I don’t feel guilty.”

Here are some video clips from the Cook with a Heart event:

Students talk about meals they cooked:

http://youtu.be/GTlW8BJcM8o

http://youtu.be/gCwA8Qm9Y5w

 http://youtu.be/Cl6n4bRTLfs

http://youtu.be/ilZFyvMF8hw

Awards: http://youtu.be/bO4pOb_Mtxg

Comments from Lustig and others: http://youtu.be/gGVrO7esKSk

Do you think schools should teach students how to cook healthy meals?

Posted on Friday, March 21st, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 1 Comment »

How much should your district spend on disadvantaged students next year?

As the July 1 deadline for creating district spending plans is looming under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, school officials should be asking parents how they believe money should be spent to best serve their children.

The state is allocating extra money to districts with low-income students, English learners and foster youth to help them close the achievement gap by providing services and programs to help disadvantaged children overcome challenges.

Ideally, districts should be telling parents how much money they are receiving through base grants for all students and through supplemental grants for disadvantaged students. Districts with more than 55 percent of students who fall into the three disadvantaged categories also receive concentration grants intended to provide extra help for them.

But some districts are more transparent than others about sharing their budget numbers with their communities during this planning process. To help level the playing field, the Education Trust-West advocacy organization has created a website at www.fairshare4kids.org that provides a searchable database of most districts in the state showing how much each district is supposed to spend on high-need students. The database does not include districts serving 100 students or less or those with very few disadvantaged students that are receiving Economic Recovery Target Grants to help them reach the goal of increasing funding to 2007-08 levels in eight years.

Here’s a comparison of the percentage of disadvantaged students in some Alameda and Contra Costa districts, followed by the amount of money designated to serve those students next year, according to the site:

ALAMEDA COUNTY
Hayward: 76 percent; $16 million
Livermore: 30 percent; $2.4 million
Newark: 60 percent; $2.8 million
Oakland: 74 percent; $27 million
San Lorenzo: 68 percent; $6.3 million

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Antioch: 65 percent; $8.4 million
John Swett: 69 percent; $905,441
Mt. Diablo: 49 percent; $9.5 million
Pittsburg: 86 percent; $8.9 million
West Contra Costa: 74 percent; $19 million

Each district must include this amount of money designated for disadvantaged students in its Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP. These plans must describe a district’s goals, actions, and expenditures across eight state priority areas. The plans must also explain how supplemental and concentration funding will be spent on high-need students and describe how the district’s expenditures will increase or improve services for those students.

Districts are required to include a parent advisory group in the creation of the plans, said Carrie Hahnel of EdTrust-West. Some districts are creating special groups for this purpose, while others are using existing parent advisory groups, she said.

A best practice is to create a special group that includes representatives for low-income students, English learners and foster youth, she said. In addition, Hahnel said students should be involved in the process.

“There’s a difference between just asking for their input and authentically engaging them,” she said. “What we hear from some students is that they will share lists of things that they care about, but they don’t feel that’s going to actually affect the district’s plan in any way.”

Some districts are holding community meetings to explain the state’s requirements and solicit feedback. But Hahnel said it’s really important to make the connection between the budget and the plan during these meetings, instead of merely creating wish lists of programs and services.

“For some reason, districts want to skip over the budget part and get to the plan part once they get people in the room,” she said. “If the district has a strategic plan — put it out there. Talk about the new funding and have a dialogue about trade-offs. If we do a lot of new things, we might have old things we have to cut, so let’s talk about what we value and how much room we have for new investments.”

What trade-offs are being discussed in your district?

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2014
Under: Education | 313 Comments »

News group’s fight to obtain district documents heading to court this month

The jury trial for former Woodside Elementary teacher Joseph Martin — who has been charged with 150 counts of molestation involving 14 former students while he taught at the Concord campus in the Mt. Diablo school district — has been postponed until May.

But, the Bay Area News Group, or BANG, lawsuit seeking district records related to an internal report about suspicions of abuse raised in 2006, along with any other relevant documents, is set to be heard March 19 in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

Attorneys for both sides have been busily trading legal briefs and declarations bolstering their opinions during the past month.

The district is staunchly defending its decision to withhold the documents sought based on a variety of exemptions asserted under the California Public Records Act. The newspaper group disputes these asserted exceptions and is asking the court to require the district to list everything that is being withheld and to review the documents privately, then decide whether or not they should be released.

Here’s a rundown of the arguments by both sides:

The district asserts that every document being withheld is prohibited from public disclosure because it contains identifiable education information for a minor, education records, attorney-client information, and attorney work product information, as well as information protected by individual privacy laws. The district asserts that a 2006 internal report prepared by outside attorney Mark Williams related to alleged improper behavior by Martin is exempt from disclosure because it was provided to police in confidence and police compelled the district to provide it as part of the police investigation of Martin.

BANG attorney Duffy Carolan counters: “It is inconceivable under the strong body of law governing access to records of public employee wrongdoing that all responsive records pertaining to complaints known to Mt. Diablo Unified School District to at least suggest child abuse by Woodside Elementary School teacher Joseph Martin would be exempt from public disclosure in their entirety.”

The district’s “vague and unsupported privacy arguments are patently insufficient to establish that any record it is withholding is exempt,” Carolan says, in a court document filed Feb. 26. In addition, she says the district failed to explain why removing the names of students would not suffice to protect student privacy and she disputed the district’s claim of attorney-client privilege related to the 2006 report.

“In sum,” Carolan wrote, “the district has utterly failed to meet its heavy burden of proof in this case to overcome the strong public interest in access to records that will shed light on the district’s handling of serious allegations of wrongdoing that have already imperiled the well-being of its students and raise legitimate concerns about student safety throughout the district.”

Although the district has not named the documents it is withholding, Carolan asserts that a paper trail leading to the decision to call police in 2013 must exist. She suggests that documents being withheld could include: an April 24, 2013 complaint from the mother of a Woodside Elementary student to then-Principal Jenny Cronan, notification from Cronan to the assistant superintendent for personnel about the complaint, direction to call police, and notification to Martin that he was being placed on administrative leave.

Related to the 2006 incident, Carolan suggests documents being withheld could include: a report received by then-Principal Jennifer Sachs that Martin was “focusing” on some students over others, Sachs’ notification to the assistant superintendent for personnel about this complaint, the conclusion by the district that an investigation was necessary, records relating to an internal investigation into “alleged suspicious behavior” by Martin, writings detailing the suspicious behavior, records showing Sachs was “tasked with conducting the investigation,” and the 2006 letter provided by Williams.

Links to court documents filed by both sides are below:

BANG Request for In Camera Review of MDUSD documents: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceOWJVWVdYOTVDbXc/edit

Proposed Order for In Camera Review of MDUSD documents: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceOWJVWVdYOTVDbXc/edit

MDUSD opposition to BANG petition: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceV2JFU29NUlVqeDQ/edit

Declaration of MDUSD attorney Deb Cooksey: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceVlJPYnB1bU9ZZUk/edit

Declaration of outside attorney Mark Williams: https://docs.google.com/a/bayareanewsgroup.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceOWJVWVdYOTVDbXc/edit

BANG reply to MDUSD: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceNDZ2THNuaU1ya3M/edit?usp=sharing

Do you think the court should review the documents being withheld to determine whether or not they should be released?

MARCH 18 UPDATE:

Here is the judge’s tentative ruling:

“29. TIME: 9:00 CASE#: MSN13-1551
CASE NAME: BAY AREA NEWS GROUP VS MT DIAB
SPECIAL SET HEARING ON: WRIT OF MANDATE SET BY STIPULATION/COURT
* TENTATIVE RULING: *

Petitioner Bay Area News Group’s petition seeking further disclosure of records is granted. It is premature to rule on the exemptions and privileges asserted by Respondent until a complete list of the specific documents being withheld is produced and correlated with the exemption and/or privilege claimed by the District. By April 2, 2014, Respondent is ordered to create a list of each responsive document or portion thereof being withheld, describing it in detail and for each document being withheld, Respondent must discuss the consequences of disclosing the sought-after information. Conclusory or boilerplate assertions that merely recite the statutory standards are not sufficient. See American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California v. Superior Court (2011) 202 Cal.App.4th 55, 82-85; State Board of Equalization v. Superior Court (1992) 10 Cal.App.4th 1177, 1192-1193.

The court rules on Petitioner’s objections as follows:

Declaration of Deborah Cooksey

Cooksey Decl., paragraph 11: Sustained – hearsay

Declaration of Mark Williams

Williams Decl., paragraph 3, starting with “I” and ending with “appropriate”: Sustained – relevance
Williams Decl., paragraph 3, starting with “One” and ending with “conduct”: Overruled
Williams Decl., paragraph 4, starting with “That” and ending with “privileged”: Overruled
Williams Decl., paragraph 4, starting with “Further” and ending with “communication”: Overruled”

Here are the objections: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceWnRFU2JnUkprd1E/edit?usp=sharing

Posted on Sunday, March 9th, 2014
Under: Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 24 Comments »

MDUSD maintenance and operations workers join Teamsters Union

I have received a news release announcing that 500 Mt. Diablo school district maintenance and operations workers — who had been members of the Local One union — voted Friday to switch to the Teamsters 856 Union. Although the news release characterized it as an “overwhelming” vote, it did not disclose the percentage of yes and no votes.

“The vote to become Teamsters comes after months of stalled contract negotiations as the District has refused to address the issue of skyrocketing healthcare costs,” according to the news release.

“’The District’s decision to freeze healthcare costs at 2010 levels has had an alarming impact on these workers – many have had to choose between buying groceries and having healthcare,’ said Peter Finn, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 856.

The maintenance and operations unit includes school bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, network technicians, as well as plumbers, electricians, painters, carpenters, groundskeepers, and other classifications working out of the maintenance department.

‘We drive children to school, prepare their meals, and make sure they have a clean, safe environment in which to learn,’ said Noven Feria, a custodian lead worker for the District. ‘We deserve to be able to take care of our families too and not have to choose between food and healthcare,’ he said.

‘It’s time for Mount Diablo to take care of the workers who take care of our children,’ Finn said. ‘We are committed and prepared to do whatever it takes to demand fairness at the bargaining table.’

Founded in 1949, Teamsters Local 856 represents 8,000 hardworking members in the San Francisco Bay Area, North Bay, Sacramento, and Central Valley communities.”

Do you agree with the maintenance and operations workers’ decision to switch unions?

Posted on Saturday, March 8th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 13 Comments »